Larissa Cheran

Larissa-Emilia Cheran is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Toronto, Canada. She started working in the field of biomedical applications of microsystem technologies in 1990. Her PhD. thesis, focused on the study of the bioelectronic interface in biosensors and bioelectrodes, described pioneering work in the field. For almost a decade, complementary to her academic career at the Faculty of Electronics, she coordinated innovative biosensors research at the Institute of Microtechnologies in Bucharest and a new, interdisciplinary group of gifted medical researchers, physicians, neuroscientists, biologists, biophysicists, chemists, physicists, engineers and mathematicians at the Romanian Academy, promoting an integral approach for the advanced scientific research in biology and medicine. Here is where she started her first experiments on living neuron networks cultured on microsensor surfaces, in cooperation with neurologists and neuroscience researchers.

As a post-doctoral researcher, under the supervision of Nobel Laureate Ivar Giaever in the USA, she continued to use the electrical properties of the living matter as a window to understand biology at both molecular and macroscopic scale. In all living cells, biochemical and molecular reactions are fundamentally electrical interactions. By applying vibrational electromagnetic fields to noninvasively monitor cell metabolism and behaviour, she investigates subtle mechanisms involving molecular dipoles, changes in cytoplasm resistivity and membrane capacity taking place during ion-channel opening, antigen-antibody interaction, during morphological and structural cellular changes that occur under different physical, chemical, pharmacological and biological stimuli or under specific microenvironmental conditions. She successfully applied this knowledge working in a Concerted European Action on Electrical Impedance Tomography.

At the University of Toronto, she joined the Biosensor Group in 1997, where she invented the Scanning Kelvin Nanoprobe, an extremely high resolution instrument measuring quantum properties of matter. In a world premiere, she explored DNA, protein and cellular microarrays in this new dimension of quantum work function measurements. The fact that this instrument is capable of detecting one single-base mismatch in a DNA double-strand came as a total surprise even for its inventor. Later she extended her efforts to investigate neuron cells using new noninvasive methods, exploring the in-vitro detection of neural oscillations and resonance. The study of the influence of neurotrophic factors on the neural networks produced by biological neurons opened a new revolutionary research direction in neurobiology. This is a first step in connecting molecular biology to quantum physics, which may one day lead to the elucidation of a number of existing controversies in biology, medicine and psychology. Life has a quantum basis and developing high resolution and extreme sensitive methods based on vibrational field might advance such fundamental knowledge.

Currently, she is keenly pursuing the study of biosensing techniques in monitoring stem cell differentiation for neurogenesis, neuroregeneration and brain repair applications. In parallel projects, she is exploring the effects of the amyloid peptides involved in the Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the influence of new antistress drugs based on the TCAP hormone using vibrational biosensor platforms.

She is the author or coauthor of more than 70 papers, 2 patents and four books. Her paper ‘‘Label-free detection of protein and nucleic acid microarrays by Scanning Kelvin Nanoprobe’’ was awarded the Gold Medal at the 8th World Congress on Biosensors.

Above and beyond her passion for science and knowledge, she is particularly interested in the science of consciousness, in human psychology and behaviour, art, music and culture. In addition to writing and receiving amazing words of gratitude from her readers, her greatest joy is to paint and she is extremely pleased to display her oil paintings in art exhibitions, for a truthful mix of art and science ( ).